By Alec Horne and Mike Howell, DieHardDevil.com
With a pain staking 5 months between now and kick-off at Sun Devil Stadium, we must distract ourselves from time-to-time to stay occupied.
This Spring, DieHard Devil will be simplifying explanations of plays so that you can gain more knowledge about all of the moving parts on the field during games. Hell, maybe you’ll gather enough to drop a gem or two on your football-know-it-all buddy down at the bar. Voila- instant credibility. For the rest of you who have played or coached this game for years, this is as good an excuse as any to debate next season’s play-calling based on the strengths of 2013’s personnel. Let’s get after it.
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Now that the team has spent a year executing new systems under this staff, Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell will add more folds into ASU’s offensive schemes and play calling in 2013.
Last season, ASU was able to pull out some impressive wins. However, there were three losses (Missouri, Ucla and Oregon State) that the Devils want back. In those close games, the team lacked more of what Coach Graham refers to as “dynamic” plays. With more of those at the offense’s disposal in 2013, ASU could very well turn last seasons close losses into big wins for 2013. And with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC & Notre Dame on the schedule, such plays will be key in the quest for the 2013-14 Rose Bowl.
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How does this work?
The process of implementing higher-yardage plays often revolves around the repetition of some of the most basic elements throughout the game. Over time, this causes defenses to get comfortable enough for ASU to catch them off guard and capitalize on that weakness. Plays like this might sound fundamental, but they require many key players to execute very specific roles.
Let’s take a look at a simple run play by ASU (shown below). We will call this formation, “base”. In the base formation, we have: five true down lineman, two in the back (QB Taylor Kelly with RB Marion Grice or D.J. Foster), three wide receivers (two to the large side of the field and one to the short), and last but certainly not least, the H-back position, usually filled by Chris Coyle. In this example, Coyle serves as the key distraction.
For the most part, the H-back (Coyle) is used early on as a run blocker in plays like a basic zone run (shown below). As the line steps right, Coyle comes back to block to the left. What this does is create an open cutback lane for Grice or Foster to hit. It also sets up the pass play because the defensive end becomes responsible for and focused on the run.
Constantly getting the defense to cheat up in order to stop the run, Norvell will likely implement a play-action pass. Using the same basic principles of the zone run, the successful play becomes possible. This time, instead of the H-Back sealing off the defensive end, he will have a precise route to run which creates the illusion that he will be blocking for Grice or Foster, but it will actually drop him right into the empty hole of the defense, creating a clear target for Taylor Kelly.
The last example we have drawn up is, in a sense, a pick route (shown below). The single receiver on the short side (left) runs a hard slant route to the inside. The opponent’s defensive back again questions a run. As the Sun Devil slot receiver (right) then runs a go-route, a straight sprint down field designed to clear space and keep the safety at home, the outside receiver (right) does the same thing which can further reinforce the likeliness of a run-play. Now QB Taylor Kelly and the Running Back will create the illusion that it is the zone-run, but Kelly will pull the ball while Marion Grice or DJ Foster move up to block on the outside. Finally, there’s H-Back Coyle taking the same steps he would on the zone-run, but instead of blocking, he’ll cut up the field past the defensive end and will more than likely be wide open.
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First down conversions like this become more reliable due to the repetitive use of this simple strategy throughout the game. As long as the offensive line, running backs and QB find synergy, the Sun Devils will gain chunks of yardage on the ground, thus manipulating the defense to be exactly where we want them to convert the 1st down with the pass.
With a talented receiver group joining the Devils this fall, ASU should have a legitimate deep threat to spread the field further. This all plays into Norvell’s style of keeping a disheveled defense on their heels & out of breath.
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